Issue No 9: 21 April 2020
Industry Code Improves Information on Accessibility Features for Customers with Special Communications Needs
Customers who need accessibility features to help them make best use of telephones and other communications equipment will benefit from a newly registered industry Code.
The Accessibility Features for Telephone Equipment Code simplifies and improves provision of information for customers with specific customer equipment needs; for example, to assist with hearing or vision impairments. The Code was registered by the industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Developed by Communications Alliance members, with input from equipment suppliers, carriers and consumer representatives, the revised Code gives equipment suppliers a single channel to meet their information provision obligations by using the Mobile & Wireless Forum, Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) to provide information about their devices.
“There is a wide array of telecommunications devices on the market with features to help people with disabilities,” said Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton.
“But understanding each of the features and finding the best device to meet a particular customer’s needs can be a challenging process.”
“The strengthened Code will make it easier for customers to find the phone that will add real benefit to their everyday lives.”
The Code has also been updated to include reference to the nationwide disability telecommunications service, Accessible Telecoms, that provides independent, up-to-date information on telecommunication products and assistive technology suitable for people with disabilities.
Templates for Accessibility Features Matrices are also available via the Communications Alliance website as an alternative option for equipment suppliers to make available their device information to carriers and carriage service suppliers. Consumers can also access this information to assist them in considering the types of features that will be most useful to them.
Industry/Government Agreement to Help Customers During COVID Crisis
The Federal Government and the telecommunications industry have issued a joint statement outlining an agreed set of principles to ensure all Australians can remain connected during the ongoing challenges and impacts of COVID-19.
The principles are based on the hardship provisions for essential services agreed by National Cabinet.
The principles provide a consistent baseline across industry that will help customers stay connected, including those who are experiencing hardship. The joint statement also prioritises the connection and restoration of services to vulnerable Australians, as well as premises where there is no other existing fixed or mobile service connected.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, welcomed the cooperation of industry in setting the principles intended to support Australians through this challenging time.
“Telecommunications services are essential to keeping Australians connected to friends, family and essential services such as telehealth, and enabling us to stay productive for work or study as we spend more time at home in response to social distancing measures.
“That is why the Government and the telecommunications industry have come together to agree these principles and prioritise connectivity for Australians, including those who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus,” Minister Fletcher said.
“I want to acknowledge the work Australia’s telecommunication companies have been doing throughout COVID-19 – including through existing financial relief measures and additional data offers at no extra costs – and thank them for their efforts to date,” Minister Fletcher said.
John Stanton, Chief Executive Officer of Communications Alliance, said the joint statement reaffirms that industry and Government have a shared commitment to keep Australians connected and ensure they have the services they need to help weather this crisis.
“Industry has welcomed the close engagement with Minister Fletcher during the pandemic – a time when telecommunications services are crucial to the economic, educational and personal well-being of all Australians. Telcos across the supply chain have been proactive; swiftly reconfiguring and augmenting networks and taking many steps to assist customers,” Mr Stanton said.
The joint statement from Government and the telecommunications industry, including the list of principles, is available from here.
NBN Co Relief Package to Assist Families and Businesses During COVID-19 Pandemic
NBN Co will provide $150 million in financial relief to internet providers so they can assist Australian families and businesses in accessing the National Broadband Network (NBN) during COVID-19.
The NBN Co COVID-19 relief fund is a substantial investment in the connectivity of Australians – particularly for low-income families with school-aged children – at a critical time for the nation. The package is targeted at supporting low-income households that have school-aged children, and provides financial hardship relief for residential customers and small and medium sized businesses.
$50 million in funding is be allocated to help connect low-income families with school-aged children so they can access the internet for educational purposes. NBN Co will waive the $37 monthly wholesale charge, paid for by internet providers, for many services on the 25/5 Mbps speed tier plan available from April until September. This is an opt-in scheme for internet providers. Participating providers will have their corresponding retail offering assessed by an internal panel at NBN Co to ensure that low-income families will have access to the most cost effective NBN packages.
This is intended to help make education accessible to all Australian students who are home schooling in response to social distancing measures.
A further $50 million will be allocated to support households experiencing financial hardship due to the challenges presented by the coronavirus. Financial relief will be provided by NBN Co to internet providers so that they can maintain NBN connections for households that are unable to pay some or all of their bills.
NBN Co will offer internet providers enhanced service levels and priority connections and fault resolutions for essential and emergency services, including telehealth providers.
NBN Co also recently announced new initiatives to provide retailers with 40 per cent additional bandwidth at no extra charge across all NBN Co access technologies and additional broadband data for Sky Muster satellite customers in rural and remote Australia during COVID-2019.
Submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements
Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) have made a joint submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. The submission makes a range of observations from Carrier and Carriage Service Provider members of Communications Alliance and AMTA in relation to the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, complemented by input from the NSW Telco Authority. These observations include:
Support for Reducing Scam Calls
Communications Alliance has published amendments to its interconnection signalling specifications G500:2000 and G549:2000, which will support the draft Reducing Scam Calls Industry Code (DR C661:2020) currently released for public comment until 8 May 2020.